Outdoor games present many challenges for hockey players, especially when the weather affects the ice conditions.
Less-than-ideal ice often impacts puck movement and how hockey is played, which forces teams into a less skilled, more simple game. But when Northeastern, UMass Lowell, Boston University and Maine practiced Friday in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s Frozen Fenway doubleheader, the ice conditions were really good on the outdoor rink.
“I feel that talking with the other coaches from last weekend there’s definitely a need to simplify in certain zones, getting the puck in, being strong on the puck, managing the puck,” UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin said. “I don’t think that changes our game a ton. I like the ice conditions today. As I mentioned earlier, I feel we could have played [a real game at practice], the ice conditions were terrific. Kudos to the staff for doing such a great job. I don’t know how they will be tomorrow, but it’s not something we can control. So we’ll deal with the ice conditions as they are tomorrow.”
The ice was a factor in the first Frozen Fenway doubleheader last Saturday when Notre Dame and Boston College had to switch ends halfway through the third period and endure a higher-than-normal amount of timeouts so the stadium crew could shovel excess ice off the playing surface. If Friday’s ice conditions are a preview of what the players will deal with Saturday, there should be a good flow to each game, which could create some fast-paced, high-scoring hockey.
“The ice is hard, it’s fast,” Maine head coach Red Gendron said. “Assuming that the conditions are similar to today, I think you will see a good tempo in the game [on Saturday].”
UMass Lowell takes on Northeastern at noon, and Boston University plays Maine at 3 p.m.
Check out some notes, stats and quotes from Friday’s Frozen Fenway media day below.
— Boston Bruins prospect and Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has a separated shoulder and will be “out for an extended period of time,” according to head coach David Quinn. Grzelcyk hurt his shoulder in a collision with the boards at Thursday’s practice. “I’m confident with the guys we have,” Quinn said. “I know we’re going through a tough stretch right now, but we have an opportunity to change that.”
— BU has struggled in Hockey East this season, its first campaign since legendary coach Jack Parker retired. “This is a very important league game for us,” Quinn said. “We’re 2-4 in the league right now. And all of a sudden you’re 2-5 and it’s a 20-game league season, it’s a hole to dig yourself out of early in league play. If you win, you’re 3-4 and you see .500 and the light at the end of the tunnel, and it can change your mindset.”
— BU has recent experience playing in front of a large crowd from its Nov. 30 game against Cornell at Madison Square Garden in New York. Quinn said that experience will help his team prepare for Saturday’s outdoor matchup and not be too nervous before puck drop.
— UMass Lowell reached the Frozen Four for the first time in school history last season, and that experience playing in a high-pressure environment in front of a major crowd should help the River Hawks focus on earning two points and not be overwhelmed by the scene at Fenway Park.
— UMass Lowell forward Derek Arnold has spoken to friends who’ve played at Frozen Fenway for advice, including Boston Bruins defenseman and BU alum David Warsofsky. “They said it was a unique experience, a lot of fun,” Arnold said. “They said to take it all in, but most importantly there’s two points on the line.”
— The opportunity to play at Fenway also gives players a chance to think about memories they have of watching Red Sox games at the ballpark. “Growing up here in Massachusetts, it was very special to get out there and see the outfield and infield where some of my favorite baseball players played,” Arnold said. “I was at the game when [former Sox outfielder] Carl Everett headbutted the umpire. He was my favorite player up until that day, and then my dad took away [my Everett jersey].
— UMass Lowell is the only program that’s making its outdoor game debut in Saturday’s doubleheader. BU defeated Boston College 3-2 in 2010, Maine defeated New Hampshire 5-4 in overtime in 2012, and Northeastern lost 2-1 to Boston College in 2012. All of these games took place at Fenway.
— UMass Lowell is the highest-ranked team in Saturday’s doubleheader at No. 14. Northeastern is No. 16, and BU and Maine aren’t ranked.
— Northeastern’s No. 16 ranking is its highest in the last three years. The Huskies’ 6-1-3 record in the last 10 games is their best stretch since early in the 2008-09 season.
— There’s a 100 percent chance of rain Saturday, according to Weather.com, and that could present a rare challenge for a hockey game — a rain delay. “What do we do? We don’t put tarps out there. I know that,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said, who’s never gone through a rain delay at a hockey game. “It’ll be exciting to see happens. The ice, the rain, it’s the same for both teams. We’ll face it together.”
— Northeastern defenseman Josh Manson has prior experience playing at Fenway, so he’s been giving advice to his teammates who are in an outdoor setting for the first time. “Just to enjoy the moment but don’t forget about what the end goal is. It’s a Hockey East game, and there’s two big points [at stake],” Manson said when asked what he’s shared with teammates. “The skate today is really good because it gives the guys a chance to get used to the setting, and you kind of marvel at it for a bit, but when game time comes around, you know what to expect.”
— Maine has a combined 1-6-2 record in away and neutral-site games. However, the team’s only meeting with BU so far this season was an impressive 7-0 win.
— Maine forward Devin Shore was a second-round pick (61st overall) of the Dallas Stars in the 2012 NHL Draft.